Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Confirmation #1

Given Topic: Faith and Baptism. What I actually talked about: Baptism and Confirmation, compare and contrast.

First off: We recited the first five popes. Every year the bishop gives the same confirmation homily -- why not? It's generally a different audience each year -- and each year he asks questions. This past year at my daughter's confirmation, I diligently wrote down each question so that I could cover them with my confirmation class. Of course the program on which I wrote them went missing the day I needed it, after weeks of floating around the library (don't ask me why I didn't put it in a safe place. Just don't do it.), so I'll have to wing it on the rest of the questions, but one thing I do know is that every year his gag question is to ask the names of the first x popes. I'd remembered the number being five, so my daughter memorized the first five popes, and then that year the bishop went and asked for the first 25 popes. So, this year, St. Mary's PSR is going to memorize the first 25 popes, and when the bishop asks, I want every kid to stand up and start reciting. Let's do this thing.

From memory, and assisted by my notes:

Why are we here? What's the purpose of sitting here in this Confirmation class? It's the same reason we're here at all, that we exist: to love God, to learn to be better able to respond to his love, and to share it with others. That's the reason for this class, for the Church, for your whole life: to love God. The Church provides us with the surest way to know and respond to God's love, and Confirmation is the sacrament that completes our initiation into that church.

Lots of great things come in trilogies: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings -- and the sacraments of initiation are no exception. Can anyone name them? Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. This reflects another great trio of our faith: the Trinity. Baptism is the sacrament of the Father, the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Son, and Confirmation is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit. In some dioceses, they've restored the original order of the sacraments so that you receive Confirmation before your first communion, because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.

But why do we need Confirmation to be fully initiated into our faith? Isn't that what Baptism does? Why do we need an extra sacrament for that? Come to that, why do we need Baptism at all? Why couldn't God have just made us members of his family already without needing a special ceremony? He can do that, right?

Well, consider my co-teacher Baby Paul here. God could have made it so that he came into the world already able to feed himself and dress himself and change himself. But as it is, Paul relies on me for everything. All he knows is that he's warm and fed and dry and feels secure. I feed him, I change and clothe him, I protect him from dangers he isn't even aware of -- being too close to the edge of the bed, or his three-year-old brother coming at him with a lightsaber. We stand like that in relation to God. He guards and guides us in ways we don't even realize, and he provides us with a family, the Church. Baptism is our entry into that family. It also washes us free from the stain of original sin, that human urge to separate ourselves from God and do the wrong thing. You all know about this. You understand the temptation to do something wrong. Sometimes we even do the wrong thing while wishing we could do the right thing. Saint Paul says, "I do what I do not want to do." (From memory, so no citation.) Baptism makes us a new creation in Christ, 2 Cor. 5:17. Also, Jesus commanded us to baptize and be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matt. 28:19. So we're baptized in obedience to that command.

But why Confirmation? How is it different from Baptism?

Confirmation is the deepening and completion of our Baptism. Let's look at it this way. Who here is involved in sports? Okay, wow, that's a lot of you. So, is it enough to just make the team? Are you ready then to go out on the field and win your first game? No, of course not. What sorts of things do you need? Yes, equipment, uniforms, practice, drills, coaching, the rules -- all these things go into making you ready to play the game. Making the team is necessary, but to fully play the game you have to go deeper.

Here's one I like: theater. How many of you are involved in drama? Okay, not enough of you. Why aren't you all in drama? Anyway, is it enough just to be cast in the play? Are you ready then to go out on opening night and perform? No, of course not! What else do you need? The script, a director, rehearsal, props, costumes, sets, lights, makeup... All these things are necessary for being able to put on a show. Getting cast is the necessary first step, but you have to go deeper if you want to give a good performance.

Let's try one more that ought to be increasingly relevant: college. The first step is getting admitted, right? Is that enough to be able to graduate? What else do you need? Intelligence, books, study, teachers, a library, room and board, financial aid -- and lots of that! To go to college of course you have to be admitted first, but if you want to get the most out of your experience you need more than just that acceptance letter.

In Confirmation, we receive the graces that we need to go deeper into the Christian life. We receive the Holy Spirit, and he gives us his gifts. Can anyone name them? Well then, good thing I have them written down here: Wisdom, Counsel, Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord. Let's try our college example again and see how these gifts might play out there, to get a feel for what they are.

Wisdom: an example of that could be knowing not to party hard, or to start your paper well before the deadline.

Counsel: counsel is the giving of good sound advice. Advisors fill that role, helping students know what courses to pick and how to get the most out of their class selection so they can graduate in four years instead of eight.

Knowledge: knowing the facts. Books, class, study -- all these things help you gain knowledge.

Understanding: But knowing just the facts isn't enough. Understanding helps you to order them, to see how they work together, to make connections and really get to the heart of what you're studying.

Fortitude: Anyone know what fortitude is? It's strength, but not physical strength. It's moral strength, courage. It's being able to say no when everyone else says yes, or to say yes when everyone else says no. It's being able to stand up for what's right and for those who are weak. Pretty applicable to college, or high school, or middle school for that matter.

Piety: the old Roman virtue of piety had to do with reverence for ancestors, parents and grandparents, etc. We can see that here as respect for teachers and those in authority -- administrators, bosses, RAs. Also it can be seen in love of your alma mater, such as when you cheer for Ohio State over Michigan (cheers from the class).

Fear of the Lord: What's this? Anyone fear your parents? I don't mean being afraid of being beaten or abused -- if that's the case, please talk to me after class! But when you obey your parents, often there's an element of knowing that they have the authority to discipline you if you don't listen to them. We know that God loves us, but we also fear him because he is all powerful and holds life and death in his hand. God makes himself weak and small for our sakes, so we can relate to him and also learn compassion for the weak. He comes as a tiny baby, or as a small round piece of bread. You can smash the Eucharist. You can spit on it, or break it. But does that mean that God himself is weak and mockable? No!

Did anyone see the eclipse? I did. When you look up at the total eclipse, you can look at it with your naked eye. The sky is all dark, and there's the black moon looking huge, and behind it the sun's corona is all white and flaming. You can look at the sun's light directly, because the round disc of the moon shields you from its blinding power. And the Eucharist is a small disc that allows us to look directly at God himself and live. We should have a healthy fear of that power and glory, and respect and love God in every form.

Oh yeah, how's that apply to college? You turn in your papers not just to please your professor and to know your knowledge of the subject, but because you know that if you don't, you might fail out. You respect the rules because there is power behind them. You can be thrown out of your dorm, or fail out, or be expelled if you don't have a healthy fear of the authority behind the rules and regulations and the syllabus.

Hey, look, it's break time! Ten minutes outside!

(I know that this isn't the most in-depth treatment of the gifts of the Spirit, but we do have another class devoted to that topic. I just wanted an intro so at least people would have something to hang the concepts on.)

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